PALO ALTO, Calif. - Diversity, as usual, is in the eyes of the beholder.
Stanford University, for example, regards itself as the birthplace of campus multiculturalism, midwifed by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who led a pack of students in 1987 chanting "Hey, hey, ho, ho, Western Culture's got to go."
Diversity was limited then to the usual suspects - left-leaning blacks, Indians ("Native Americans," as they must be called here), women as in "women's studies" and gays. When I was told that Stanford had even expanded diversity to include conservatives, I had to come observe for myself the natives in their natural habitat.
A conservative trend was not exactly obvious the day I arrived. The big rally was in defense of the transgendered - men who live as women and women who live as men. Old-guard protesters called out the names of every transgendered person in the United States murdered because of his, her or its sexual ambiguity. Chalked outlines, like those traced around a body at the scene of a crime, decorated the campus sidewalks, with students walking or biking over them on their way to class.
Then I discovered the Stanford College Republicans, the most recent group of students to emerge from the closet. Joe Fairbanks and Travis Menk, co-founders, say they honor traditions of diversity by welcoming as members all "moderates, conservatives and libertarians." The Stanford Review, a conservative alternative newspaper, covers their activities.
The first initiative of the College Republicans is to bring the Reserve Officer Training Corps back to campus. ROTC was exiled in 1969 at the height of student protests over the Vietnam War.
"It's garbage that Stanford pushes diversity left and right, but they won't let us have ROTC on campus," says Menk, who proudly wears an Army hat he inherited from his father, West Point '75. Stanford's ROTC students must commute to San Jose State, Santa Clara University or the University of California at Berkeley, miles and hours away.
Bringing ROTC back to Stanford is definitely a long shot, says Williamson Evers, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, a part of Stanford, who advises the College Republicans. "Professors at Stanford oppose it for political and academic reasons and they are wary of the military providing any of the curriculum. ROTC has to pass the Faculty Senate on this predominantly liberal campus."
Cecilia Ridgeway, Stanford sociology professor and a member of the Faculty Senate, offers the typical faculty-lounge view. "I understand that there are times when society wants militaristic approaches to problems," she told Stanford magazine. "I don't think it's the place of first-rate universities to feed those desires. Universities are about solving problems through discussion, not military approaches."
ROTC on campus is an uphill fight, says Joe Fairbanks, but doable. "When you consider that Stanford students get credit for such 'intellectually challenging' courses as yoga, posture and hip-hop, it shouldn't be so hard for them to receive credits for military science, which include tough advanced courses in physics and math." He thinks the heightened awareness over the prospect of war with Iraq will make the difference. If Berkeley and Columbia University can have "Rot-C," so, his reasoning goes, can Stanford.
"We found many new members when we placed a booth in front of a one-sided antiwar teach-in on Iraq and passed out information about the use of poison gas by Saddam Hussein," he says. "These students were undecided and uninformed and were suddenly radicalized in support of the president's position."
Paul George, director of the Peninsula Peace and Justice Center that sponsored the teach-in, sees the Iraq issue at Stanford differently. "We believe that education will lead directly to active opposition to the war," he told the Stanford Daily. "I think when you dig behind the political rhetoric, there's really only one side to come down on."
Almost every speaker at the recent antiwar teach-in attacked President Bush's position on Iraq - George accused the administration of having "manufactured a crisis" - but he defended it all as unbiased: "I like to think it's not one sided, it's the truth."
Stanford University is typical of the elite universities where liberals dominate and support "freedom of speech" as long as it's speech they want to hear. Nevertheless, the Republicans may no longer be an endangered species here.
"Upsetting stereotypes of Vietnam-era protests by flower-draped coeds and flag-waving veterans, younger Americans are more likely to support the use of force against Iraq than are senior citizens," reports the Christian Science Monitor. "Americans aged 19 to 29 back U.S. Military action by a 3-to-1 margin (69 percent to 23 percent)."
So Bob Dylan was right. You don't need a weatherman to see the way the wind blows. The times , they are "a-changin'." Again.